Defense attacks deputy’s actions in gun incident at Oswego Walmart
By Matt Hanley firstname.lastname@example.org November 5, 2012 6:48PM
Jason Thurmond, charged with shoving an off-duty Kendall County police officer, leaves the Kendall County Courthouse in Yorkville during a break on the first day of the trial on Monday, November 5, 2012. | Steven Buyansky~Sun-Times Media
Updated: November 7, 2012 12:24PM
YORKVILLE — On the first day of testimony, defense attorney Richard Irvin critiqued the behavior of a Kendall County sheriff’s deputy who drew his gun in a crowded Walmart last Super Bowl Sunday.
Jason Thurmond, 38, of Montgomery, went on trial Monday, charged with battery for shoving the off-duty officer at the Oswego Walmart on Feb. 5, 2012.
The incident that led to a Kendall County jury hearing a misdemeanor case began with a dozen eggs.
The cashier at the discount department store told Thurmond and his wife, Nicole, that the eggs were not covered by their WIC card, which provides assistance to low-income pregnant women. Thurmond’s wife was nine months pregnant at the time.
Thurmond left the line to get different eggs. The wait for his return, and the couple’s loaded cart in an express line, irritated some of the people who were waiting behind the Thurmonds. Craig French, an off-duty Kendall County sheriff’s deputy, was next in line, and sarcastically asked the pregnant woman if she could count.
When Jason Thurmond returned to the line, he told French to stop talking to his wife. He then shoved French, who at some point drew his gun in the crowded store.
Thurmond was charged with misdemeanor battery for making physical contact with another person in a threatening manner.
In her opening statement, Kendall County Assistant State’s Attorney Lisa Accardi said Thurmond had “no reasonable justification under the law” to shove French.
But even among Monday’s prosecution witnesses, there was disagreement about who was the aggressor — Thurmond or French.
Irvin, who is also an Aurora alderman, said Thurmond returned to the line to see his wife red-faced and being yelled at by a man wearing jeans, a coat and baseball hat. Irvin said the cashier had waved the couple over to her line, even though they had more items in their cart than the recommended number for the express lines.
French admitted on the stand Monday that he joined in with other customers who were questioning Nicole Thurmond’s mathematical abilities and educational background. French said he was frustrated with how long it was taking to ring them up.
“Ma’am, can you count?” French testified saying to Nicole Thurmond. “You realize that you’re holding everyone up.”
French said he did not know Nicole Thurmond was pregnant.
French said the next thing he knew Jason Thurmond was coming at him in an aggressive manner, waving his arms and asking “Why are you talking to my wife like that? C’mon (expletive).”
Thurmond then shoved French in the chest. French did not fall down, but stepped back.
When Thurmond kept approaching, French drew his gun.
French later told his bosses he drew his weapon because of Thurmond’s size (5-foot-5 and 355 pounds, according to court records) and the violent action Thurmond was showing. French told Kendall investigators that it was the most scared he’d ever felt in his 17-year police career.
Irvin critiqued French’s behavior, pointing out that he didn’t identify himself as a police officer until after his gun was drawn, he never tried to quiet down the other customers and he never offered to help Nicole Thurmond.
“Now that wasn’t protecting and serving, was it?” Irvin asked.
“I guess in those terms, no,” French said.
Prosecutors rested their case Monday afternoon. Irvin is expected to present his case Tuesday, and Thurmond and his wife are expected to testify.